Nearly three decades ago, before he had starred in corny rom-coms or won an Oscar, Matthew McConaughey kept journals. In one of those pages of self-reflection, he vowed to become an author.
From the first page of the book 'Greenlights', one will wonder - did McConaughey know he would live a life worth writing about?
McConaughey, now 51, let his yesteryear musings loose in his memoir, high on philosophy and cool stuff he did growing up in good old Texas. The youngest of three brothers, Matthew McConaughey had a devil-may-care lifestyle in his early days. The actor's journey to Hollywood stardom is painted in fine detail in the book - which he wrote in only 52 days.
Greenlights starts with McConaughey's parents having a fist fight. They broke each other's bones, spilled ketchups, got divorced twice, remarried again. The dynamics of his parents' relationship remains one of the bedrocks of this book. His dad, a lifelong pipe salesman, was an idiosyncratic persona. He installed the zeal of fatherhood in McConaughey. "Become a father," the actor wrote in his life goals.
McConaughey was a rebel, yet got mostly straight As in school. Once he was offered the chance to spend a year in Australia under a foreign exchange program. He signed up to this, unbeknownst to him, what lied ahead. He had to stay with a rural Aussie family, far away from the bustling Sydney, in a town of 2000 people.
McConaughey writes about his time in Australia in vivid detail, calling it a "cultural shock." His loneliness in that country forced him to write 15-page letters home – and then, when no one replied, to himself. The writer in him was fleshing out.
Years later, back in Texas, McConaughey was bartending in a jazz pub. He was a student of filmmaking at that time, but did not fully commit to the hard and fast rules of academia. Bartending brought him closer to the casting director Don Phillips. The fateful meeting landed him his first role in an indie flick called "Dazed and Confused."
The first words McConaughey ever said in a film were: "All right, all right, all right."
"The very first words I said on the very first night of a job I had that I thought would be nothing but a hobby, but turned into a career," he wrote.
The "Greenlights" of the title refers to moments when the universe gives us permission to do new things; reds and yellows are the things that stand in our way. Green, understandably, is the yeses that permit us to move forward.
McConaughey's romanticism about life seems interesting on paper. But it is not actually something to imitate. Getting arrested while playing Congo in the dead of the night? Or getting into mud wrestling because a Native American villager challenged him to prove his manhood? Well, not alright.
McConaughey had been a polar opposite to current persona throughout his twenties and thirties - enjoying both worlds of hedonism and low-key living. The unseen side of a movie star of his stature, who wants to hike mountains in Peru or just be a family man in a ranch, can be found in this book.
McConaughey details why he got labelled a bankable rom-com stereotype and how he defied it. After his breakout success in "A Time to Kill," the John Grisham crime-drama, his journey into the world of 90-minute rom-coms began. It lasted longer than he wanted it to.
"I had taken the baton from Hugh Grant, and I ran with it," McConaughey jokes about his stint as the "thing."
Small but very memorable, McConaughey's role in "The Wolf of Wall Street" is best remembered for his chest bumping tune. "The chest-bumping tune? That was something I was doing before each take to relax and keep my rhythm - it was Leonardo's idea for me to do it in the scene," he wrote.
Anecdotes, punchlines, Zany proverbs - Greenlights has it all, although sometimes a little imposed. McConaughey's poetry at the end of each chapter is a bonus. Never before seen pictures, journals, and McConaughey's favourite bumper stickers also made it to the book.
Reading this book, you might think McConaughey is preaching his own dose of wisdom. But he claims not to. "I wrote the book so I could have a written record to hold myself accountable to," he announced to his readers.
If you like movie stars and are looking for a biography that is not too hefty, read Greenlights. You will not be disappointed.